After rent or the mortgage, food shopping is often the biggest piece of expenditure each month with the average family spending £83.60 per week at the supermarket, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Perhaps that figure shocks you. You can’t possibly spend anywhere near that on your food, right? Well, if you were to check your bank statements, you might be in for a shock.
The good news is that it’s really simple to cut your food bills. And by a significant amount too.
Here’s my guide to the steps you can take to reduce your spending on food. So get yourself a cup of tea/glass of wine, and let’s do this.
1. Impulse buying or same online order every week? Stop!
First of all, you need to look at how much you are spending per month and where you’re buying your food from. Do you do a big weekly shop and then top up at smaller branches as and when you need something? Do you have an online delivery service already in place, where you order the same things every week? Perhaps you live in a city centre, don’t have a car, and just do all your shopping at a metro supermarket each day on your way home from work. Impulse food shopping is often very expensive so a move to planning in advance will make the biggest difference to your spending. If you order the same thing every week online, it’s likely you’re missing out on special offers and food is going to waste if you have plans that mean you won’t be around every night.
2. Do a stock check so you don’t buy what you don’t need
Before you do another food shop, take a stock check.
Go through everything in your freezer and write down what you have. Then do the same with your fridge and your cupboards. In the freezer, you may find you already have some sausages, or chicken breasts or even a ready meal which will save you buying more protein on your next shop. In the fridge, you might find some ready meals, jars of sauce or other things that will last a few weeks and can be used in a dish or two. If there are any items like meat or veg that are reaching their use by date, cook them and freeze them so they last longer. Finally, in the cupboards, you should make a list of portions of pasta, rice, potatoes, sauces and other seasonings.
Do you know I found 4 jars of paprika in the cupboard the other day?! When you don’t know what you have, you can end up buying duplicates of things. This will very easily help to cut your food bills.
3. Plan, plan, plan
Open a word document or Notes on your computer or phone and write down the days of the week with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Next to each of the 21 entries, write a meal or mark OUT if you have plans and won’t be eating in. Breakfasts are probably very easy – for me, I just write ‘toast’ and I buy a loaf of bread which I keep in the freezer so it lasts the week. Lunches and dinners will be more difficult but the web is FULL of inspiration. Here are just some of the sites that I get dinner ideas from:
You can also pick some dishes which allow you to cook batches of food to have on other dates, such as bolognese which (with a few tweaks) can become the base of many, many other meals.
When planning, try to work in a few of the things you have in the freezer to your first or second weeks’ plans as you’ll need the freezer space for other things! Supercook is great at working out meals with what you already have in your cupboard.
4. Go frozen
Replace fresh with frozen. As you’re going to be buying a week’s worth of shopping, you need the sell by dates to last longer than a few days. If, like me, you need a portion of veg with every meal, then go frozen! It’s just as fresh as the unfrozen stuff (if not fresher because it’s frozen as soon as it’s picked) and it’s much cheaper. I would recommend bags of cauliflower, broccoli, peas and sweetcorn. However, if you have limited freezer space, you can buy frozen bags of mixed vegetables and they cost about £1!
The same applies for herbs. You can buy little bags of most seasonings and herbs including coriander, basil, chopped chilies, garlic, chopped shallots and ginger for about £1.20 each and they’ll last in the freezer for ages, unlike fresh herbs which go off in the fridge very quickly.
Just by swapping from fresh to frozen should significantly cut your food bills (as many of the items will last a few weeks) and you’ll be wasting a lot less food too.
5. Shop around for the best deals
Yup, now we shop! Each supermarket has its own pricing plan so it’s important to use a comparison tool to ensure you’re getting the best deals. Go to mysupermarket.co.uk and add all the items you’ll need for the week to your shopping basket. Remember to refer back to your kitchen stock so you don’t buy anything you already have. Once you’ve added everything, check the Switch and Save option on the right hand side of the webpage. This will show you how much your basket will cost you at each supermarket.
On my first visit to the site, I saved 25 quid doing this!
Select the cheapest option and then book a delivery slot. For this new way of food shopping to work, I’d recommend picking a day and time that will work for you every week so that you’re always planning ahead one week at a time. The delivery costs should be under £5 for any of the supermarkets so factor that price in when you order.
6. Don’t waste anything
Save leftovers and freeze them. They can be used for other meals i.e roast chicken can go into risotto, bolognese can be used in lasagne or cottage pie.
Keep redo-ing the planner each week and using mysupermarket.co.uk to find the cheapest retailer. It will allow you to save some items as favourites which is really valuable for the items you may need every week like milk (or nappies!)
Of course, you will need to pop to the shops occasionally during the week for items you’ve forgotten or if your plans change but as long as you avoid buying too many impulse items, it won’t cause too much damage!
What are your naughty habits when incomes to food shopping?